At least 62 killed in forest fire still raging in central Portugal


More than 20 people have been killed in forest fires in central Portugal, many of them trapped in their cars as flames swept over a road, officials said early Sunday.

The blaze on Saturday hit the mountainous area of Pedrogao Grande, 200km northheast of Lisbon, amid an intense heat wave and rainless thunderstorms.

Mr Gomes said at least 30 of those killed were in vehicles engulfed by flames on a road between the towns of Figueiro dos Vinhos and Castanheira de Pera.

Three children, aged three to six, are believed to be among the dead.

Four firefighters are among the 54 people injured in the fire, which is raging in several parts of a mountainous area some 200km north-east of the capital Lisbon.

"This is a region that has had fires because of its forests, but we can not remember a tragedy of these proportions", Valdemar Alves, the mayor of Pedrógão Grande, was quoted as saying by the Associated Press.

Isabel Brandao told The Associated Press on Sunday that she had feared for her life when she saw the Pedrogao Grande blaze.

Portugal was sweltering under a severe heatwave over the weekend, with temperatures topping 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) in several regions.

Two Britons have been caught up in the Portuguese forest fires, receiving minor burns in the tragedy that has claimed 61 lives.

"Yesterday we saw the fire but thought it was very far". Minister of Internal Administration Constanca Urbano de Sousa, also in Pedrogao, said that "when this ends" an assessment will be made about what happened, according to RTP.

The official death toll right now stands at 62 total people, though that number may fluctuate as officials learn more about the full extent of the fire.

FIFA President Gianni Infantino, attending the match, also offered his condolences.

In August of previous year, the island of Madeira was devastated by a fire that killed three people and more than a thousand had to be evacuated from their homes.

Spain has sent two water-bombing planes to help their neighbour fight the fires.

Portugal's civil protection agency, which coordinates firefighting efforts, issued a warning of the increased risk for forest fires in Friday.

Dozens of people who fled their homes have been taken in by residents of the nearby municipality of Ansiao.

Portuguese Republican National Guard soldiers battle with a forest fire in Capela Sao Neitel, Alvaiazere, central Portugal, on June 18 2017.

Interior Ministry official Jorge Gomes has been quoted as giving the new figure on public broadcaster RTP.